Local business leaders sleep on the streets to raise awareness for teen homelessness

ST. LOUIS – About 37 business executives bundled up in coats and sleeping bags to fight the cold overnight as wind chill temperatures dipped into the 20s. For these local entrepreneurs, it was a cold and uncomfortable lesson in homelessness.

"I woke up a lot of times. I would roll over cause I was uncomfortable. I felt the wind going through my cardboard box," said Peter Leibold, Ascension Health.

Leibold was shocked when he heard more than 3,000 young people are homeless in the St. Louis area.

“And I just can’t believe that there are kids that experience that every night," he said.

The event was part of the annual Covenant House Missouri Sleep Out. Business leaders spent the night in the parking lot of the north city organization.

"Constant noise, whether it was kids screaming as they're driving by, or … ambulances, you never could just get into that comfortable space; and I'm in a top the line Gore-Tex sleeping bag, as warm as you could get, but I was still just never comfortable," said Andy Pettit, Cisco Systems.

In addition to sleeping outside for one night, the executives committed to raising at least $5,000 for Covenant House. Some said this experience has forever changed them.

"I get to go back to my comfortable bed. I'm thankful for that, but I'm also thankful for this opportunity to be a little miserable right now, because it helps me to relay and it make want do more for these homeless youth,” said Janssen Longenecker, Mission Financial.

Pettit said he would not rest until he tells as many people as he can about Covenant House’s mission.

"A place like Covenant House is a great sanctuary for them to come and get the service they need to get back to a life of independence," said Jon Nienas, Covenant House board chair.

The group of business leaders has raised more than $270,000 for Covenant House Missouri so far.